(HealthDay News) — A bill signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama is meant to provide veterans with easier access to government-paid health care.

Under the $16.3 billion measure, the Veterans Affairs Department will be able to hire thousands of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers at nearly 1,000 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics nationwide, the Associated Press reported.

The new law – passed by Congress last week – also makes it easier to fire senior VA officials who perform poorly or are found to be negligent. The legislation is the federal government’s most significant response so far to outrage triggered by reports that veterans were dying while faced with long wait times to see VA doctors, and that employees covered up those long waits, the AP reported.

At the signing ceremony, Obama pledged further reforms to ensure veterans receive proper care. “This will not and cannot be the end of our effort,” he said. “We have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with the new demands.”

Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2014